Above: artisans from Palma Real.
Building the "Capital of Crafts" in the Peruvian Amazon
The stunning Madre de Dios region is known within Peru as the country’s “Capital of Biodiversity.” Now, thanks to the Ese’eja people who call the region home, Madre de Dios is vying for the title of “Capital of Crafts.”
The Artisan Women Association of Palma Real makes art every bit as intricate and beautiful as the Amazonian ecosystems around them. Unfortunately, the economics haven’t worked out for Palma Real, an Ese’eja community of over 300 people. Sustainable tourism is on the rise in Madre de Dios and has helped draw the world’s attention to the spectacular crafts of the Ese’eja—but it’s seasonal, and hasn’t provided Madre de Dios families with the support they need.
That’s why the people of Palma Real are asking for your help. With your support, they plan to use a local "crafts house" to tie together the local crafts community. This arts center will serve a hub for an artisanal awakening, increasing crafts production, improving quality and strengthening Palma Real’s ability to market their unique products to consumers around the globe.
“We need help to strengthen our mothers' group and to conserve our forest,” says Elvira Shanocua, president of the Artisan Women Association of Palma Real.
Above: a panorama from Palma Real.
Committed to Crafts and Conservation
For the women involved in Palma Real’s crafts community, the day starts early with a cup of broth and a glass of chapo (a cold banana drink). Then, the artisans head into the forest to gather the sustainable products—plants, roots, seeds, fibers and the ingredients for natural dyes—that let them build their crafts. (Subsistence activities in this community, such as hunting, gathering and fishing, are also conducted sustainably.)
Many of the members of the Artisan Women Association of Palma Real, which involves 156 women, then come together at Palma Real's crafts house. This is a central location where artisans can learn from one another and sell their products—including handmade baskets, clothes and jewelry—to local visitors. While rudimentary, the house has helped a community coalesce around their shared commitment to crafts. And that community is now earning money that supports Palma Real's continued sustainable development.
You can help that community build a future—and better lives—through donating to their cause. By funding new equipment and promotional materials, you can help Palma Real turn the crafts house into a launching pad that lets artisans fully develop their abilities to create and market crafts.
About This Project
This project is part of the Initiative for Conservation in the Andean Amazon (ICAA)—a USAID-supported program that is bolstering environmental protection efforts in the Andean region.
As part of its emphasis on sustainable livelihoods, the Rainforest Alliance is working through ICAA to administer a small grants program supporting hand-picked projects in the Peruvian Amazon that have proposed green ways to create income in their communities. All of these projects are committed to having a positive impact on the forest ecosystems on which they depend, and the Rainforest Alliance will work with the Artisan Women Association of Palma Real to ensure that this grant funds sustainable livelihoods.
Conservation is incredibly important to the Ese’eja people of Palma Real, whose traditional way of life requires the continued abundance of local natural resources. By helping develop the crafts house, you'll help the Artisan Women Association of Palma Real to find new markets and provide for their families.
“Nature means everything in our lives,” says Elvira Saavedra Viaeja, one of Palma Real’s artisans. “It provides the animals that feed us, the medicinal plants that cure us and our children, and the natural materials that let us build crafts and homes.”
Above: baskets made by Palma Real artisans.
(first and third pictures courtesy of Jon Cox)